Cyprus activates Israel evacuation plan

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The Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Cyprus has activated its humanitarian rescue mechanism to provide a safe transfer hub for foreign nationals evacuated from Israel after the shock attack by Hamas militants and the ensuing war.

A ministry statement said, “In view of the current security situation in Israel following the extensive terrorist attacks”, Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos convened Tuesday his crisis management team, including the ministers of Defence, Interior and Justice.

They decided to activate the ‘ESTIA’ plan for the “reception and repatriation of foreign citizens from an area in crisis, through the territory of the Republic of Cyprus”.

“In this context, the Republic of Cyprus intends to offer facilities for the repatriation of foreign nationals from Israel through Cyprus,” the foreign ministry said.

Cyprus has facilitated similar humanitarian evacuations before, including Lebanon and Sudan.

The island welcomed tens of thousands of people evacuated from Lebanon in 2006 during an escalation of violence with Israel.

In April-May this year, the ESTIA plan was activated to evacuate 2,611 people from 29 countries out of Sudan during an 11-day airlift operation.

On Monday, Cypriot transport minister Alexis Vafeades said it was critical for the country to ensure “connectivity” with its neighbour, which lies just 250 kilometres (155 miles) away, during the attacks.

Fighters from the Islamist group killed more than 800 people during their assault on Israel, abducted at least 100 individuals and took them back to Gaza.

The Israeli army said it was the single most deadly event in the nation’s history, and it has responded by bombarding Gaza and ordering a “complete siege” against its 2.3 million residents.